Man, that sucked. This was a game that, on its surface, Seattle should have won in fairly comfortable fashion. Washington came in to arguably the toughest place to get a road win and did so without a number of key players, including practically their entire offensive line. The Seahawks, on the other hand, entered this game on the back of a four-game win streak, including an all-timer in front of these same fans just seven days ago. There’s no such thing as an easy win in the NFL, but a lot would have to go wrong for Seattle if Washington was gonna have a chance.
A lot went wrong.
The entire first half was defined by mistakes, which was criminally unfair to a defense that played its collective balls off today. The O-line was mostly horrendous in the game’s first two quarters; Oday Aboushi for example, while no prize hog as an OL, was manhandled this afternoon- a development that led to two huge holding calls. Ifedi got one too, erasing a 48-yard pass to Doug Baldwin and turning 1st & 10 inside Washington’s 30 into 2nd & 14 on their own 21. It was Ifedi’s 10th penalty this year, the most in the league by 4. Sprinkle in a few false starts and it gets real tough to get your offense on track.
Russell Wilson wasn’t helping matters. I don’t know if it was due to the mix of rain and snow or what, but he threw some very soft passes in situations where zip was necessary. He missed Doug Baldwin deep. Then missed Tyler Lockett deep right after that. He threw two passes behind Jimmy Graham and had a handful of other dangerous underthrows. He threw one pick in that first half and could realistically have had two more, and went to the locker room with just 68 yards passing.
The defense, for all their brilliance, missed some of their own opportunities to make big plays. Bobby Wagner, who was transcendent today, got Seattle on the board with a safety, and the D-line relentlessly attacked Kirk Cousins. But Kam Chancellor dropped a simple interception that wafted into his hands after deflecting off Justin Coleman’s helmet. Then Richard Sherman played a sideline route perfectly, turning before the receiver did only to have that pass rattle off his hands as well.
Then Washington strung together a 13-play, 71-yard TD drive that included a series of catches from the still-awesome Vernon Davis. On one of them, Davis was belted by Kam and reflexively grasped his chest to try and keep his soul from leaving his body again, before heading to the locker room for X-rays to confirm the fact. It didn’t deter the visitors from scoring though, as a pass-interference call against Sherman put the ball on Seattle’s 1 and paved the way for the score.
And Blair Walsh missed three field goals. Three of ‘em. Three field goals. Professional field goal maker. Missed every one. You’d think even on a bad day he’d make one of them. Or at least figure out a way to miss differently. Nope, though. Yanked it left every time.
So that’s how you go to the half down 10-2 in a game you should be leading comfortably, in case you were wondering.
The third quarter was mostly more nonsense, with Seattle’s first semi-successful rushing attack of the year thwarted by costly errors. On one promising drive, Wilson began to look like his shimmying, shimmering best self. He alternated deft passes with agile scrambles, contorting his body in some monstrous new fashion each time. Then, as Seattle got into scoring range, he felt pressure, stepped up into the pocket, and lobbed a pass directly to a wide open Washington linebacker.
The defense kept bringing it though. Last week, they said the offense bailed them out, and they were right. Despite their miscues, they looked determined to repay the favor today. Washington’s OL didn’t stand much of a chance in this one, nor should they have, and the result was a season-high 6 sacks for Seattle. Wagner, as I’ve already mentioned, played insane football today and was in on seemingly every tackle, no matter the play type.
Run up the middle? Bobby’s there. Sweep play? Look who’s pushing him out of bounds. Screen pass? Wags again. Catching a receiver from behind 15 yards downfield? Yep. Hell, he even body-slammed the everlovin’ shit out of Davis. I don’t know what special thrill the Seahawks get out of tormenting Vernon Davis but that dude deserves a medal for even showing up to work today.
The third quarter eventually ended (did it ever really exist?), and the key grips and prop-builders quickly reassembled the stage for 4th Quarter Russell Wilson. Striding confidently from behind the curtain, 4QRW made his triumphant arrival and went ballistic in the final act once again. He entered this game as the highest rated 4th quarter passer in the NFL and was somehow even better than that today.
It didn’t matter what the play was, Russ finally had the offense under his command. He darted passes all over the field, finding Graham, Baldwin, and Paul Richardson with regularity. He ran a bunch too, milking every available second out of each play, keeping his run/pass option open until the last possible moment before picking Washington’s defense apart with either.
Finally, the dam broke. With Seattle working it into the red zone, Wilson took the snap and rolled left. Luke Willson broke free and 1-L twisted his body at a full sprint to fling the ball towards the endzone, hitting 2-L in stride from 10 yards out and giving Seattle’s offense their first score. That made it 10-8, and the Seahawks were a 2-point conversion away from tying it up. Now, y’all know by now that I like D*rrell B*vell, but there’s no way what Seattle did next was their best available option.
With an empty backfield and five wide, Wilson took a quick drop and fired it to his right, toward a crashing Lockett. It was an eerily similar call to that one time and the result was the same, sans the life-collapsing emotional devastation. Washington picked off the pass and looked for all the world like they were going to return it the other way for two points of their own. The Seahawks, to their credit, showed tremendous resolve and eventually ran the returners down, despite their ceaseless laterals.
The game would stay 10-8 as Seattle’s defense continued to suppress the Washington offense. By now, Russ was really feeling himself, and with just over two minutes left, took the team 71 yards in just 48 seconds. On the drive’s final play, Doug Baldwin vanished at the line of scrimmage and reappeared 20 yards later, wide the hell open. I’m serious, go check the replay. Josh Norman tries to hand-check him at the line and ends up punching air. Baldwin literally disappears into through some unseen dimensional portal and reanimates behind the secondary, jogging calmly beneath Wilson’s pass for the go-ahead score. A team that has won so many incredible games in the fourth quarter had done it again. All that was left was one more stop.
First though, they had to try another 2-point conversion. With the play clock running down, Pete Carroll sprinted onto the field to use one of his two remaining timeouts. Why, I have no idea, because A) the difference between being up 4 and being up 6 is pretty minimal with a minute and a half left, B) going from the 2 and the 7 probably doesn’t make a huge impact on the success rate, especially with this team, and C) you’re gonna really wish you had that timeout later coach!
The play they called out of the timeout was actually awesome this time. Wilson rolled left while Graham slipped to the back of the endzone. Wilson’s pass to him was a little high but absolutely one that should be caught. Instead, it slipped through Jimmy’s hands and the score remained 14-10.
By this point, Seattle’s pass rush was in Cousins’ face on nearly every play. One more stop and the Seahawks would retain their place atop the NFC West. Strangely, however, the Seahawks opted for a physical press coverage and Brian Quick slipped away for a big 25-yard catch. On the next play, with Seattle still playing tight man-to-man coverage, Josh Doctson got loose on Shaquill Griffin and laid out for an incredible diving catch on the 1 yard line. It was an outstanding catch by a guy who hasn’t done anything all year on a pass from a QB that hadn’t done anything all day. This forced Carroll to use his final timeout and after Rob Kelley slammed it into the endzone on the next play, Wilson and Co were left with one minute and no TOs to try and steal it back.
The would-be game-winning drive got off to a pretty good start. Short sideline completions to JD McKissic and Tyler Lockett set up his laser to Richardson down the middle of the field to Washington’s 39. Down by three, with the clock ticking under 20 seconds and not wanting to put the game on their kicker’s foot, Seattle hustled up to the line of scrimmage. Last week, in a nearly identical situation, Seattle took advantage of a tired, scrambling defense to score the winning touchdown so their decision not to spike it here didn’t bother me. Hell, half the defense was looking around trying to figure out where to go. Unfortunately, Seattle’s OL wasn’t ready either and Wilson took one of the most damning sacks of his career.
That left Seattle with only the prayer play left to call. Wilson’s endzone heave clanged off a leaping mass of men and bounced out of bounds. Just like that, the Seahawks had lost a game the whole country thought they’d win and fell a game behind the Rams in the division.
-After going 14 for 31 for 146 yards, no TDs, and 2 picks in the game’s first three quarters, Russell Wilson finished by completing 10 of his final 14 for 151 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Absolutely insane how good he is when they’re in hurry-up mode and I just wish they’d go to it before the game is on the line. Everyone is so much better when they’re running the offense with urgency. Maybe today changes that.
-The run game was okay today! Eddie Lacy had 19 yards on 6 carries before groining himself and giving way to Thomas Rawls. Rawls came in and proceeded to have his best game too, turning 9 carries and 2 catches into 70 yards and a handful of first downs. Throw in Wilson’s 77 rushing yards, albeit on scrambles, and you have yourself a respectable running performance of 148 yards on 28 attempts. I don’t know how much of an effect on this that Duane Brown had but I’m guessing it was significant.
-Doug Baldwin was awesome today. Despite Russ’ early struggles, he still turned 12 targets into 7 catches for 108 yards and the score. He has been Seattle’s best offensive player this year and is firmly entrenching himself in the top tier of WRs in the league. Jimmy Graham continues to have solid if unspectacular performances, as his 8 targets resulted in 5 catches and 59 yards. Richardson caught all 3 of his for 41 and Tyler Lockett somehow ended up with just 2 catches for 10 yards on 8 opportunities.
-Can’t overstate how good the defense was overall in this one, dropped interceptions be damned. Earl Thomas and Sheldon Richardson are great players but their absence was not the reason Seattle lost. Even with that final touchdown drive, Washington managed just 244 yards today. Dwight Freeney was insane, notching two more sacks (giving him 3 in 2 games since signing with Seattle) and nearly pulling off the D-line hat trick when his second sack was initially ruled a fumble that he recovered for a TD. Michael Bennett, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark were all ravenous and the result was the aforementioned half-dozen sacks.
The two best individual defensive games I’ve ever seen Carroll Era Seahawks play were Kam’s performance against Carolina in the 2014 ‘yoffs and Bobby’s Herculean, 110-play effort in Arizona last year. Wagner was that good again today. He had a game-high 12 tackles, including the safety sack, 3 tackles for loss, and two deflected passes. It is impossible to give him adequate praise.
-The Seahawks committed 16 penalties, their most in 33 years. The fact that they were even close to winning anyway is amazing. Absolutely unforgivable lack of discipline in this one.
-What do you do with Blair Walsh?
The Seahawks are 5-3. It’s not ideal, especially with the Rams, Eagles, Cowboys, Saints, and Panthers all winning today, but it keeps them in the mix. It’ll take either another big win streak or a stark reversal of fortunes in Philly for Seattle to get home field advantage this year but everything else is still very much in play. This game sucked but I don’t think that means this team does. It took an avalanche of errors for Seattle to barely lose and it makes sense to believe this is an outlier in that regard. Maybe not, but this team’s track record strongly suggests a correction.
It’s a quick turnaround this week, as Seattle plays in Arizona on Thursday so you know what maybe it will be gross again. Their margin for error got thinner today, but there’s still half a season left and 5-3 ain’t as bad as it feels right now. Onward, upward.
Went with a special small batch edition of Booker’s today, which was delicious, and just strong enough to keep up with my Alec Bradley OB Maxx stogie.